The La Grande Tigers softball team couldn’t have asked for a much better way to christen a newly revamped Sam Marcum Field Thursday — a dominant doubleheader sweep that strengthened its grip on first place in the Greater Oregon League.
A one-hitter by Allie Brock and a two-home run effort by Jayce Seavert lifted the Tigers to an 11-0 win over the McLoughlin Pioneers in Game 1, and a balanced offensive attack sent La Grande to a 12-6 win in the second game and to a 6-0 start in GOL play.
“The new field helped,” Seavert said. “We were like, ‘We’ve got a new facility. We want to play well for the first game on the new home field.’ We were looking at (the doubleheader) as we’ve got to come in strong and want it more than (the Pioneers) do.”
Outfielder Kara Gooderham, one of LHS’s seniors, said the upgraded facility, which includes a new backstop, new dugouts for both home and visiting teams and a permanent outfield fence, helps to validate the program and its growth into one of the state’s strongest after taking the title a year ago.
“It shows we’re not just some rag-tag team from nowhere. We won state and we look like it,” she said. “When people show up, they think we’re a good team.”
The Tigers have definitely looked the part of the state contenders they are, as the sweep Thursday continued what has been a runaway start to GOL action. In their first six league games, the Tigers have outscored the opposition 108-7, reaching double digits in runs in all six games and securing mercy-rule wins in five.
“The bats are working all the way around, for sure,” Head Coach Woody Wright said. “As long as we can continue to support (Brock) with runs I feel pretty good about where we’re sitting with the league right now.”
La Grande scored the first run of the opener without a hit, as Alaina Carson was hit by a pitch and later scored when Seavert reached on an error for 1-0 first-inning lead. The first hit at the upgraded facility came an inning later on a single by Jaiden Hafer, and the first RBIs were in the third when Seavert and Hafer both hit RBI doubles for a 3-0 lead.
The offense exploded in the fourth, with Kara Gooderham and Seavert leading the charge. Gooderham hit a blooping RBI double into right field and Seavert followed with a two-run home run for the new park’s first dinger. Hafer later reached on error that plated two more runs and gave La Grande an 8-0 lead.
The Tigers finished the dominant win in the fifth when Gooderham drove in Kinzy Bowen on an RBI groundout and Seavert launched her second two-run shot of the game.
Seavert finished 3-for-4 with five RBIs to lead the charge. Gooderham added two RBIs and two hits and Hafer had two hits. Carson scored three times and three other players scored twice.
Brock dominated in the circle, striking out eight and allowing just one baserunner on a fourth-inning single.
Brock, who had all of her pitches working in the dominant effort, said there was an added level of enthusiasm Thursday.
“We started off the game really excited to play on our home field and excited to play another league game,” she said. “We just really wanted to keep ourselves in that first-place spot. The girls were really excited about it.”
In the nightcap, everyone chipped in as La Grande shook off an early deficit — only the second time it’s trailed all season — and reached the cusp of another run-rule victory before settling for the six-run win.
“All the kids top to bottom can put it over the fence, but they can play the short game as well,” Wright said of the offensive versatility.
Carson lifted a home run just inside the left field foul pole to knot the score at 2-2 in the third and kick off a six-run inning. After an out, the Tigers followed with four straight singles, one of which was a two-run single by Jacie Howton, took advantage of an error to score two more runs and added capped the barrage with a Sophie Bell RBI double for a 7-2 lead.
“I think we played really well,” Carson said. “I think there are some things we need to work on, but there always is. It was really fun.”
The lead reached 11-2 in the fourth when Hafer pulled a two-run single and Lexee Gomes and Bell both followed with RBI singles of their own.
Mac-Hi added four late runs to hang around, but never truly threatened
La Grande in the doubleheader finale.
“At times, Mac-Hi challenged us, but the kids came through,” Wright said. “We had a stellar performance from Allie Brock on the rubber, and the kids played well behind her and supported her with runs. It’s basic softball.”
The Tigers pounded 16 hits in the second game, with at least one from all nine players in the lineup. Brock roped three hits and five players connected for two hits apiece. Bell drove in a team-best three runs, and both Howton and Hafer had two each.
Brock pitched another complete game, allowing six runs — four earned — on six hits with four walks and 12 strikeouts.
The Tigers (13-1 overall, 6-0 GOL) are back home Wednesday when they host Fruitland, Idaho.